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Trying to Live "Gang Free" in Cicero, Illinois: A Study of Municipal Gang Abatement Efforts

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 1999 Pages: 57-70
George W. Knox Ph.D.; Curtis J. Robinson
George W Knox Ph.D.
Date Published
14 pages
This paper describes the efforts of the municipal government of Cicero, Ill., to create a "gang-free" town, along with the response of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to these efforts.
In the summer of 1999, Cicero gained national and international mass media attention for its effort to rid the town of gang members. In April 1999, the Town of Cicero passed a new anti-gang ordinance formally called "An Ordinance Providing for the Enforcement of Gang Free Zones in the Town of Cicero." It authorizes the towing away of a gang member's car because it is illegally parked in a "gang-free zone." The thrust of the ordinance is to banish gang members from the community. Shortly after passing the ordinance, the Town of Cicero began its secondary effort to drive the gang members out of town. On May 11, 1999, Cicero filed two separate civil lawsuits against two gangs operating in the Town of Cicero. The lawsuits seek injunctive relief to abate a public nuisance and damages caused to the community by gangs. It did not take long for the ACLU to get involved. On July 28, 1999, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit in Federal court on behalf of those who had their cars impounded. When the lawsuit was filed, the Town of Cicero promptly decided to voluntarily suspend any further enforcement of the ordinance. It remains to be seen how the civil suits brought by the Town of Cicero will be handled by the courts. The town has some strong grounds for some reasonable injunctive relief and some monetary damages against the gang members. This development could send a strong message that would provide an important economic disincentive to be involved with a criminal gang. Appended ordinance and 4 references


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